In order to better support people who have fled to Switzerland because of their religious distance, the Swiss Freethinkers Association is starting the programme “secular-refugees.ch – A humanistic refugee aid”. The programme was meant to be launched at the event on Apostasy Day on 21 March at the Kunsthaus Zurich, but unfortunately, this could not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
These cases are not isolated but they do not have a “lobby” yet: persons who flee to Switzerland because they criticize and/or are distant from religion in their home countries. It is common that they are again harassed and threatened in asylum centres by religious fundamentalists. This is where the Swiss Freethinkers would like to start offering support.
Take for example the case of Azam Khan, a blogger and activist from Bangladesh. He has been assisted by the Swiss Freethinkers since he arrived in the country. This is how he describes his experience: “Through my contacts with the freethinkers, I no longer felt so alone and above all, I felt understood in my secular worldview. All this also ensured that I did not get into a depressive spiral in a completely foreign country without family and friends.”
The Secular Refugee Aid provides support based on three pillars:
1) Direct help for people seeking protection.
If refugees are attacked in refugee centres because of their religious and sexual orientation, Swiss Freethinkers contact the authorities and the police. They also help refugees to find their way in their new environment and provide translation assistance.
2) Integration activities.
They want to promote exchange between the refugees and the inhabitants of the communities in which they live. To this end, the Swiss Freethinkers organize cooking evenings, guided tours, reading groups, etc.
3) Public relations.
The Swiss Freethinkers want to contribute towards making sure that political actors, media professionals and the broader public are aware of the concerns and challenges of non-religious refugees. They also advocate for the recognition of apostasy as a reason for asylum.
The launch of secular-refugees.ch was planned to take place at the Apostasy Day event last 21 March at the Kunsthaus Zurich. Unfortunately, the event had to be cancelled due to the uncertain developments regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The program included, among others, people who had left religions or sects, such as ex-Muslim Sarah Haider, who lives in the USA, and former Jehovah’s Witness Rino Zumerle, who lives in the canton of Berne. The Swiss Freethinkers also intended to hold a panel debate with decision-makers on the topic of apostates.
About the Swiss Freethinkers’ Association
The Secular Refugee Aid programme advocates for non-religious and religiously distanced refugees in Switzerland and for persons who are persecuted because they have distanced themselves from religion or have been criticizing it. The programme is guided by the principles of secular humanism and is committed to the respect of universal human rights. The Secular Refugee Aid programme is a working group of the Swiss Freethinkers Association and is backed by it financially and logistically.
– Andreas Kyriacou, President of the Swiss Freethinkers Association: + 41 76 575 36 30 / email@example.com / frei-denken.ch
– Kacem el Ghazzali, Board member of the Swiss Freethinkers Association and co-founder of secular-refugees.ch: +41 76 683 56 90 / firstname.lastname@example.org / secular-refugees.ch